Eight Orlandoans arrested at Rubio’s office for sit-in against gun violence

ORLANDO – What was intended to be a 49-hour sit-in at Senator Marco Rubio’s downtown office on Monday was cut short when police, some armed with SMG assault rifles and wearing flak jackets, arrested eight protestors and moved to disperse the crowd of just under 100.

“Lack of any compromise in Washington on commonsense gun reform costs 15 lives a day. We were going to be here for 49 hours, one hour for each Pulse massacre victim,” said William Lawson of the Central Florida AFL-CIO.

The action was co-sponsored by Organize Now, UNITE HERE, Equality Florida, Central Florida Jobs with Justice, CAIR Florida, and more.

The action itself consisted of chanting, testifying and singing. The crowd sang “This Little Light of Mine” as they were escorted out of the lobby of the office building they made their stand.

“We urge others to stage their own sit-ins on all members of Congress, this is a message to all of Congress to do something about this issue,” concluded Lawson.

A statement put out by the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Florida calls what has happened in Congress the last month the work of “opportunist political leaders [who] have offered meaningless platitudes and political pandering in response to unspeakable violence.

“At best, politicians propose ‘No Fly No Buy’ legislation that employs racial profiling and fails to address the most urgent needs of marginalized communities.”

Senator Marco Rubio in particular has been criticized for using the Orlando tragedy as a reason to pick up his dropped Senate re-election bid, a convenient excuse to stay in the limelight after his failed Presidential campaign.

“I have been affected deeply,” said Rubio on a conservative talk show. The Human Rights Campaign issued a statement entitled “Marco Rubio wants another 6 years to not represent LGBTQ Floridians in the Senate,” which documents Rubio’s many homophobic stances.

Not only does Rubio disagree with the majority of the nation on issues like marriage equality; he also has a B+ rating from the NRA whose lobbying efforts keep Congress gummed up in order to prevent even minimal gun control measures from reaching the President’s desk. Florida activist Ida Eskamani said that’s why she sat down and submitted to arrest.

“We are committed to honoring those countless lives lost to gun violence,” said Eskamani. “We were committed to a 49-hour sit in. When that could not happen we were ready to accept the consequences of arrest.”

Eskamani and the nine others spent 10 hours in concrete, windowless, fluorescent-lit rooms. Overall, Eskamani said, the cops treated them with respect.

“We represented so many intersections of the movement; black, Latinx, and white, queer and straight, young and old, victims of gun violence and discrimination. Being in jail, even 10 hours, has made me a better advocate for criminal justice reform and even more compassionate to those sentenced.”

As for what’s next for those seeking to avenge the murder of 49 people in Orlando with policy changes, Ida Eskamani makes it perfectly clear.

“The line has been drawn,” she told People’s World, “you either stand with us to end gun violence and discrimination… or you’re against us. All we can do is turn up the heat.”

To aid in turning up the heat, readers can call Sen. Marco Rubio at 202-224-3041 or tweet him at @marcorubio and express support for the sit-in. The Twitter hashtag to use is #SitInForThe49.

Photo: Ida Eskamani/Equality Florida


Patrick J. Foote
Patrick J. Foote

Patrick Foote writes occasionally for People's World. At the University of Central Florida, he worked with the Student Labor Action Project organizing around the intersection of student and worker issues. He would go on to work in the labor movement in such organizations as Central Florida Jobs with Justice, AFSCME Council 79, and OUR Walmart.